The foundation for all curricula is based upon our beliefs of how children develop and learn. It is also influenced by the social and cultural context in which it was developed. These beliefs guide our view of teaching and our approach towards children as learners. Two historical figures that influenced educationalists were Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934) and Jean Piaget (1896-1980) who studied the effect of social interaction and the cognitive development of children. Both men have had a great impact on early childhood education over the 20th century and into the 21st century.
Piaget's approach was from a biological perspective, stating that children went through stages of cognitive development. Piaget's developmental approach viewed children as manipulators of their environment gaining a deeper understanding of their world (Smith, 1999).
Piaget's profession started as a biologist and early on in his career was employed at the Binet Institute in Paris where he was appointed to collate children's achievement scores.
He became interested in the fact that children of similar ages were getting the same questions wrong. This was the beginning of what is commonly know as Piaget's intellectual development theory. This theory was based around four stages of development: sensorimotor (birth up to 24 months), pre operational (24 months to 6 years), concrete operational (6 years to 13 years) and formal operational (12 years on to adults). Although children vary individually Piaget believed that children create knowledge through involving themselves in processes he described as assimilation and accommodation. When a child assimilates an idea or concept, they base what challenges them to a previous experience adjusting comprehension to work through the challenge. Accommodation takes place when this process has been understood through experimentation and one ingests it into their thought process (Piaget, 1926).
Educators and others did not notice Piaget's research until the...